Hen Morning

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“Long time no see.” Sam grinned, opening a shiny Land Rover door. “Hop in.“
Jealousy bubbled.
We bumped down a track to a long silver hangar, ominous in the early morning mist. Just inside were pallets loaded with blue trays, each containing 30 pristine brown eggs. Sam guessed my thoughts. “750 dozen per pallet!”
We entered an enormous, gloomy space occupied by a moving brown sea. A strange sound went up, as if a footballer had missed a penalty in front of a stadium full of ghosts.
Brown, white-tailed hens filled every inch, bright red combs bobbing and inquisitive eyes darting.
“Seven and a half thousand!” said Sam, opening panels in the wall. “Free range!”
The hens laid in small aluminum ‘houses.’ Eggs rolled down rubber mats onto one of two conveyor belts. One had jammed, hence my presence.
Having fixed the belt, I noticed few birds outside. Some hovered at the exits. The vast majority hadn’t moved though.
“Why don’t they go out?”
Sam smiled. “Because they’re thick. Some never go out in the flock’s lifetime.”
“How long’s that?”
“One year.”
“What happens then?”
Sam’s mobile rang. “Excuse me.”
I realised that I really didn’t want to know…
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Amid the Winter’s Snow

 

angel_in_the_snow_by_iron_eye-d4onktw

“Long before you joined, Featherstone, something happened to me.” Old McMoneagle shifted in the red leather armchair.
“Sir?”
“I was young, fresh out of Oxford. Master’s in agriculture. Anyway, on my first Christmas Eve here we’d gone to the Wheatsheaf before the service at St. Mary’s. It was snowing heavily.” He paused. “You remember Mary Skellern? Well, she’d passed me over for Jack Broughton, but I didn’t want jealousy to stop me going.”
He continued, “it was a cheery affair, us chaps belting out carols with gusto!”
I imagined the happy scene in the tiny rural church.
“Due to the beer I soon needed a pee. Outside it was frightfully cold and completely silent, snow everywhere. I made my way round the side and relieved myself. On my way back something peculiar happened…”
“What?”
“Someone grabbed me from behind – I couldn’t move! Then the ground shook with an earth tremor and some huge tiles fell a few feet in front of me. If that fellow hadn’t held me I’d probably’ve been killed.”
“Who was it then?”
He shook his head. “There wasn’t anybody there!”
“There must’ve been!”
“That’s just it Featherstone, the snow behind me was pristine, no footprints anywhere…”
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The 100th Story

John Hancock Center's Tilt

Feeling nervous, Jonathan Rook, a sizeable cog in finance, took the elevator for the 100th floor.

Vernon Cumberbatch, the president, was interviewing for VP. The only other candidate was Grant Abrahams, head of insurance.
Exiting the lift, his stomach lurched.
Grant appeared. “Hello Jonathan, ready?”
“Hello, no, I need the bathroom.”
“There’s one right here. It’s just been renovated.” Grant gestured to a door, labelled ‘Danger, Keep Out’.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’ll tell the old man you’re on your way.”
“OK, thanks.”
Jonathan entered an empty room, freshly plastered. Ahead, windows gazed down onto a sea of skyscrapers. In a wall to the right was a brown wooden door with a panic bar. ‘Odd’, he thought, but with the need now urgent, he depressed it. “Jesus Christ!” There was nothing beyond. He fell forward, holding onto the bar as the door swung out. His legs kicked helplessly above the impossible drop whilst a freezing wind stung his clenching fingers.
Someone appeared in the doorway.
“Where’s Rook got to?” said Vernon.
Grant fidgeted. “I’m not sure sir.”
“I’ll give him five minutes.”
“Of course sir.” Grant noticed something on his shoe. Taking a tissue, he wiped it off. Damned plaster...
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Addressing Impatience

Eco-Friendly Shopping

“Address labels. Where’s the address labels?”

“Why, did you want some?” Mother replied, having returned from shopping.
“That’s why I put them on the bloody list for heavens sake! I told you I needed them today.”
“Language!”
“Sorry, well where is it?”
“Where’s what?”
The shopping list!”
“Oh, probably in my handbag.”
Mother couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of a shopping list.
“If we’re running low on something, write it down!” I’d say, annoyed at running out of essentials.
Sometimes she did, but then she’d leave the list behind. Neither would she cross off the items she had bought, so I’d sometimes find myself buying unnecessary duplicate items.
“Look, let’s mark off what you actually bought, then I’ll go for the rest myself!”
The crumpled list was recovered.
“For God’s sake, where’s the good pens?” A pot contained just a handful of ancient blunt pencils. Exasperated, I said, “you do it, I’m going for the labels!”
Back home, mission accomplished, I headed for the kitchen. “Jesus Christ!” Sitting there was a pack of Avery address labels!
Mother appeared. “Sorry dear, I’d forgotten I did get them after all. Now if you hadn’t been so impatient, rushing off like that…”
 –
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Little Pricks in the Night

insect-drone“Address of target?”
“33 Cherry Tree Drive, Marehamby, Lincolnshire,” said Ronald Digby, adjusting thick-lensed spectacles. “What’s.. what’s the cost?”
On the other side of a burnished desk, a grey-suited young man (“just call me Steven”) fingered his blond ponytail. “We’re speaking the same language, yes?”
“Mmm..”
“Well, assassination’s from twenty thousand for domestics, fifty to five hundred for politicals and by negotiation for HOS.”
“HOS?”
“Heads of State,” Steven replied drily. “Relationship?”
“Wife, er, Sandra…”
“Then we’d need a deposit of five thousand.”
Digby opened a briefcase, taking out bundles of notes. He hesitated. “I’m a bit worried Vanessa, er, my mother-in-law, might suspect…. How does it work?”
Steven smiled. “Obviously I can’t tell you everything but we use tiny little drones that look like insects. They use facial recognition technology. They inject various poisons, all are undetectable – death looks natural… You’d just leave a window open…”

Cautiously Digby pushed the bundles across.

Digby gone, Steven had a sudden thought, ‘Marehamby, Marehamby!’ He recalled the picturesque little town. Hmm.. the ‘drop drone’ could carry several ‘killer drones’…
He dialled a number. “Darling, it’s me, I was wondering if you fancied a weekend in the Lincolnshire Wolds?”
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If Two Witches Were Watching…

witch

Aspects of the house were curious; a winged gargoyle hung by a sign – ‘Haunted Cottage’. Full of optimism, Claire and I had come to buy a saddle.
An old woman with long, incongruously black hair led us into a conservatory. “Please sit. I’ll make some tea…I insist!”
Peach-coloured cushions graced cane furniture and a ‘green man’ planter looked down impassively.
She returned. “Just brewing. Now I must tell you, I have two witches!”
“Sorry.”
“Two witches, in spirit. They live here. They can be very naughty!”
Claire suppressed a smile. “How?”
“They steal my slippers and hide them! Come!”
We passed through ancient rooms, small, immaculate and appointed with antique furniture. Stuffed foxes glowered, and witches, from small dolls to waist-high figures, were everywhere. Finally the tack room…
We sat drinking tea. She looked anxious. “D’you hear that? Thunder! There’ll be a storm.”
“We’d best be going. Hang on, where’s my car key?!” My pockets were empty.
I went to the car. Lightning flashed.
“It’s OK, it’s in the ignition!”
“She was crazy,” said Claire, back home.
“Yeah, maybe, but when we were sitting down I seem to remember the car key was pressing against my leg…”
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Marley’s Spirit

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Aspects of my death were interesting.
I’d gone to my granddaughter’s pub for a pint at lunchtime. “‘Ello ‘Enry,” says old Malcolm, a ‘regular’, whilst discussing spade design.
Soon I felt unusually tired. “Sorry Malcolm, I need a lie-down.”
Later, I headed to the bookies with Malcolm’s ‘surefire’ tip, ‘Blind Optimism’. Strangely no-one greeted me.
The girl didn’t look up at the counter. “Hello!” I knocked on the glass.
A young man in a patchwork jacket showed surprise. “Henry, you’ve passed over!”
“Passed over, what d’you mean?”
“You’re dead! Didn’t you know?” Everyone turned to look.
“No I’m not!” I threw a sheaf of betting slips in the air. “See!”
The handful of customers ran for the door.
An old man with brylcreemed white hair entered. “Come on Henry lad, time to go!”
I gasped. “Dad! but you’re…dead.”
“We live on… Come along son, there’s folk waiting to meet you…”
Outside, brilliant white light filled the street. There was my auntie Ethel, smiling for once, and my mother too.
A little white dog ran towards me, its tail wagging furiously.
“Marley!”
He jumped into my arms and licked my face for the first time in forty years…
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Chivvers’ Foibles

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“Vulgarity is the poor man’s religion!” said Sheldrake, battling against the loud chatter and raucous laughter of the Crown and Anchor’s early evening trade.
“Who said that?”
“Oscar Wilde.”
“No he didn’t!”
Sheldrake banged the table. “Well he should’ve done!”
The round, jean-clad behind of Sue from accounts rubbed against my arm as she stood chatting to colleagues.
Sheldrake gripped my wrist. “Look, I’ve discovered something. Somethin’ about ol’ Chivvers!”
Shh!” I didn’t want Sheldrake spouting baseless rumours again, especially about my boss.
“Look, he’s had visitors, two men from Serious Fraud.”
“Rubbish!”
“They use the service lift and they don’t leave his office.”
Hmm, Chivvers had seemed preoccupied recently! “How d’you know?”
Sheldrake tapped his bulbous nose.
Minutes later Sheldrake nodded frantically. “That’s, that’s them…”
Two men in black coats approached through the throng. They gave Sue some cards before heading to the bar.
“Here Tony, Sheldrake, you might be interested, you never know!” She gave us one each, laughing.
I read – Have Fun at Work! Unicycle and Circus Skills!
I practically choked on my Old Backstabber, imagining old man Chivvers riding round his office on a unicycle!
Sheldrake looked sheepish. He and the truth made poor bedfellows!

Seeing What Isn’t There

CCFabulousFlapperBlack“Vulgarity in my house. Disgusting!” Eugene Todmorton confronted the trio in his lounge. He’d awoken at 2 a.m., hearing sounds downstairs.
“Steady on old man!” A young man in a purple blazer raised a glass. “Cheers!”
Dixieland jazz blared from a wind-up gramophone.
“Come and join us daahling!” A girl in a black tasselled skirt exhaled cigarette smoke.
Eugene fumed. “I don’t know you people. Get out!”
“Look old chap, you invited us!” A young man in a straw boater gestured wildly, spilling wine on the carpet. “Oops!”
“No I didn’t!” Eugene, a balding mathematics lecturer was a stranger to hedonism. He opened the front door. “Out!
The trio exited sheepishly, the ‘flapper’ carrying the gramophone and blowing him a kiss.
Darling! ” his wife, Beatrice, dishevelled and anxious, shook his shoulder. “What’s all the shouting about?” She held an unopened pack of Zyprexa. “You haven’t been taking your medication!”
Eugene looked away.
“Look, whatever you saw, it wasn’t happening. It’s all in your mind. That’s the truth!” Then, “go back to bed, I’ll turn the lights out.”
She went into the lounge. What was that on the carpet? She dabbed her finger on it and sniffed. Red wine? Hmm…

Cilice Sod

 

cilice nun metal chain disciplinePIX BY WAYNE PERRYPenance or Purgatory? As a practising Catholic, the daily dilemma. Until yesterday….

After the office I’d address my lascivious thoughts of the women there. I had my little ‘collection’ – hair shirts, a lightweight five-tailed ‘discipline’, and others. Dissatisfied with Hail Mary’s and the like, I’d mop up the blood with an old towel. Perhaps I was a little…odd?
Last week, whilst photocopying, I bumped into Maureen, a clerk, manly-looking but big breasted, wearing a tight purple jumper.
“D’you have many to do?” she’d asked.
“Just a few invoices.”
She noticed me assessing her bust and I blushed furiously.
“Are you Catholic by any chance?” she asked.
“Yes.”
“I’m not, but I’ve sinned. And I need to be punished.”
Shocked, I nevertheless saw opportunity.
“You can come to my place…if you like…”
We discussed punishment. Consequently my new ‘pride and joy’ arrived yesterday – a seven tailed metal ‘discipline’, ‘handmade by Italian nuns’. We laid into each other until we were both bleeding profusely.
I fell on the bed. Removing her bra, she collapsed on top of me. I decided then I’d had enough of Catholicism to last me a lifetime but I could live with S&M…